Flash! Vol 1, by Brady Koch (2:13)

IOD-FlashVol1Today we see that giving flavoursome detail before defining qualities is gambling that the reader won’t settle on a different mental image.

What I gleaned about the stories: Bad things happen to people who go into fields.

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Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

WTF #1: Details out of order

Analysis: The first story opens with:

The clay walls were wet. Somehow it was more hot and humid down here than the tangerine orchard twenty feet above him. Jake’s sweaty hands weren’t helping and he slipped again. He wasn’t afraid of falling, just screaming on the way down.

The opening two sentences created a mental image of someone underground. Without information on where exactly they were, I pictured a cellar. The slipping-and-falling suggested they were clambering through something, so I adapted the image to a tunnel network or cave-in.

However, at the end of the third paragraph, the author reveals the protagonist has wedged himself part way down an abandoned well. This was sufficiently different from the image I’d been building that I stumbled and went back to see if I’d missed a cue.

Finding neither a missed cue nor a reason to withhold that it was a well rather than a passage or chamber, I moved on.

WTF #2: Confusing label

Analysis: The second story opens with Tessa, a farmer who grows pumpkins and keeps ostriches, inspecting a field. Partway through an explanation of why the ostriches roam the pumpkin field, I encountered: With no family of her own to shape her priorities, Tessa had taken to these wild hairs. Ostriches are feathery (in fact they are renowned for producing immense feathers for hats and such), so I didn’t immediately parse wild hairs as a nickname for ostriches.

An instant later, the context suggested it was; however, by then I’d moved from immersed in the prose to unravelling the meaning.

Noting a second blip in my formation of mental images, I moved on.

WTF #3: Punctuation Issues

Analysis: I’d ignored a few potentially missing capitals and ambivalent absences of comma in the first two stories thinking they might be stylistic. However, a couple of paragraphs into the third story I hit wives car. Without an apostrophe to distinguish singular from plural, my mind threw up both ‘car of the wives’ and ‘car of the wife’.

Context suggested a probable answer. However, with other technical niggles to take into account and doubts about the clarity of the descriptions raised, this proofing error was enough to damage my trust in the prose, so I pulled the plug.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.

The Aeronaut, by Bryan Young (3:27)
Hungry Gods, by J.D. Brink (8:56)

About the author

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and speculative fiction. He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.